For most of us, the new year often comes with a new commitment to eating well and losing weight. But if you’re looking into diets like keto, paleo, or intermittent fasting, remember that restrictive diets can be difficult to sustain. The better way to successfully maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle is consistency over time.
“There are so many health benefits when you begin making nutritious, sustainable changes in your food choices,” says Atlantic Health System registered dietitian Kelly Struck, RD. “This means ditching restrictive diet patterns and allowing yourself to enjoy a variety of foods in moderation, while prioritizing foods that are nutrient-dense.”
1. Plan Meals in Advance
Start by stocking your kitchen with refrigerated and frozen foods, and dry shelf-stable pantry options, always checking nutrition labels. This will mean fewer trips to the grocery store, quicker meal preparation, and a wider variety of options. It will also reduce impulsive, fast food or takeout cravings.
Kelly always has her nutrient-dense, shelf-stable favorites in stock:
- Beans and legumes for salads, soups and side dishes
- Nuts and seeds as a wonderful grab-and-go snack
- Jarred peppers, sundried tomatoes and artichokes to enhance flavor
- Frozen vegetables and fruits so fresh options are always available without a trip to the grocery store
- Herbs and spices to transform even the simplest of dishes
“Whether you’re using a pressure cooker, roasting in the oven, or making a stew on the stovetop, having the ingredients in the house when you’re ready to cook is key,” says Kelly. “Preparing meals ahead of time when it’s convenient gives you healthy options for days. Batch the meals so you can eat some now and freeze some for later.”
2. Find Ways to Add More Fruits and Vegetables
Most of us do not eat the recommended daily servings of fruits and vegetables. Finding ways to incorporate sufficient servings of fruits and vegetables may take a little creativity. This could mean disguising vegetables in an omelet, topping a pizza with them, or adding them to a smoothie. Whether fresh, frozen, jarred or canned, fruits and veggies should be a kitchen staple.
“Eating a sustained diet rich in fruits and vegetables does more than make you feel energized and alert. It helps you maintain a healthy weight, reduces chronic disease, and fights inflammation in the body,” says Kelly. “These are your power foods packed with high levels of fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals.”
3. Portion Your Treats
Allowing yourself to eat foods you enjoy is important to a sustainable diet. Start by improving the quality of your choices while allowing yourself to eat the foods you crave in appropriate amounts. For example, portion your favorite snacks into containers. Or reduce your ice cream intake from every day to twice per week by substituting an enjoyable alternative such as a frozen yogurt bar.
Be mindful when you eat sweet treats, enjoying each bite and chewing foods slowly. Mindful eating gives your brain time to know when you’re satisfied. It also allows you to enjoy treats that you may have thought were “off limits” on previous diets with a focus on portion and enjoyment.
“By using these few tips as a starting point, you can create one or two specific goals for the new year based on what you would like to conquer,” says Kelly. “You can also work with family and friends to share your own specific goals and discuss progress. The new year is an exciting time for change and a great time to take steps that improve your health.”
Be Proactive About Your Health
To stay safe and healthy, it's good to have a primary care provider who knows and understands your health history and wellness goals.